Left Handed Guitar Playing – a Guide

Author: classic-guitars  //  Category: Music
Left handed people can become guitar players but there are some adjustments you need to make to your guitar and your outlook. First if you think that you “should” be right handed because that is how guitars are designed, think again. If the hand that keeps telling you it wants to perform actions is your left hand, you are better off listening to it. This is your active hand, which makes your right hand passive. So in a way, your left hand tells your right hand what to do. Paul McCartney is one guitar player who tried to make his right hand do the picking and it did not work. He only started to get anywhere with playing the guitar after he changed the strings around and started picking with his left hand. There are lots of left handed guitar players who have mastered their instrument and gained fame and fortune. I have already mentioned Paul McCartney, and there are many others like Curt Cobain, Tony Iommi, Jimi Hendrix and Slim Whitman.

Dick Dale, “King Of The Surf Guitar” is one notable exception to this rule. The first guitar he learnt to play on was a normal right handed guitar. So he forced his hands to learn to play without changing the order of the strings on the guitar. Even after he was able to buy custom made left handed guitars, he still played with the strings in the right hand positions because that is what he was used to. Bobby Womack and Albert King also play like this.

So what changes need to be made to a guitar to make it suitable for playing left handed? Well, when you hold a guitar in playing position the sixth string – the E string which is the thickest guitar string needs to be on top of the guitar, that is closest to your shoulder. To achieve this the order of the strings needs to be reversed. If you hold a right handed guitar in front of you and look straight at it, the sixth string is on your right hand side. To string the guitar for left handed playing, the first string should be on the right hand side.

Also, the two parts of the guitar that actually hold the strings on – the bridge and the nut need to be changed around. If you look closely at these parts you will see that they have slots cut in them to hold the strings. Naturally the nut and bridge will need to be turned upside down to fit the strings in the reverse order.

Now for the question of buying left handed guitars. Many guitarists complain that left handed guitars cost around double the price of right handed guitars, so you will need to do some serious shopping. Tokai and Vintage make serviceable mid-range left handed guitars for a reasonable price,. Fender make all the ‘basic’ model Telecasters and Stratocasters for leftys, and Gibson make left handed versions of all their flagship guitars.

Now let us look at another challenge for left handed guitarists – chord charts. If you do a search on the web you will find a range of printed left handed chord charts and chord generators. A good on to start with is “Left Handed Guitar Chord Chart”, by Robert Tarchara. There are also books that are written especially for left handed guitar players:

Mel Bay Left-Handed Guitar Chords, by William Bay, 2005

Guitar Case Guide to Left-Handed Chords, by Rikky Rooksby, 2001

Guitar Case Guide to Left-handed Scales, by Rikky Rooksby, 2006

Fortunately there are many left handed guitar players who have been willing to share the knowledge and experience on line. Some can be found on forums, others have set up their own websites. Among other tips they can help with where and how to buy left handed guitars.

By: Ricky Sharples

About the Author:

Do you want to learn to play the guitar? http://playaguitarforfree.com/ is my blog which shows you that there are many people like you who wish to learn how to play bass, acoustic or electric guitar. You will find guitar lessons, videos, articles and reviews to answer your questions, calm your fears and help you play the guitar.


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